MODESTO — Merced High's Brett Fogelberg surveyed the situation from atop the starting block. With no other anchor-leg swimmer having joined the Bears' senior on the blocks for the final 100 yards of the 400 freestyle relay, Fogelberg stood head and shoulders above his competitors.
Merced had a fourth consecutive title in the bag, but Fogelberg was on a quest for a fourth victory -- two individual wins and two in the relays -- at the ninth annual Stanislaus County South Section Swimming and Diving Championships.
Oakdale High handed anchor Soren Dickens half a body's length lead, but Fogelberg's body language, just before he leaped into the water, seemed to say, "Not nearly enough, fellas."
It was close, but Fogelberg chased down Dickens in the final 25 yards and gave the Bears a meet-closing victory. Merced (3:20.03) finshed about half a second better than the Mustangs (3:20.58).
Did Fogelberg know he'd reel in Dickens?
"Yeah, I knew I'd chase him down because that's the best part of my race -- chasing," said Fogelberg, who was victorious in the 50 (21.35) and 100 (47.54) freestyles to go along with the relay wins.
Joining Fogelberg with two wins was Merced's Josh Fleutsch, who won the 200 (1:46.73) and 500 (4:46.84) freestyles.
Merced High's girls also captured a fourth straight team title, even though they only won one individual event -- Taylor Schaller (1:05.86) in the 100 backstroke -- and one relay -- the 400 freestyle (3:48.66).
Turlock's Pitman High came within 14 points (353-339) of ending the Bears' championship run.
"I was really pleased with our performance today," said MHS coach Kit Grattan. "I told my team that we need to send a little bit of a message. Teams are here to see what we're made of, and we needed to perform at a high level. The competition for us was great."
Pitman's standout diver Natasha Sondeno did not compete Saturday, opting to take part in a national competition in Texas. Her presence at the County Championships on Saturday probably would've pushed the Pride over the top.
Golden Valley's Connor Hoppe won the 100 breastroke with a time of 57.40, just .16 off the meet record. Hoppe finished second in the 50 free (21.76) to Fogelberg. The Bears' Patrick Roberts (22.75) was third in the 50.
"I embrace it as a good challenge," said Hoppe. "Brett's a great swimmer. You have to bring your A game when you swim against Brett."